WHEN OREOS FALL IN LOVE

Yes, I do have a cookie blog, but when I try a new recipe, it will be here in my Bewitching Kitchen site. These cookies are a marriage of Oreos with Linzer, perfect for Valentine’s Day. They have a wonderful peppermint flavor, both in the cookie and the filling. Simply omit if you are not fond of it. I actually modified the filling a bit, because using the hard candy takes it too much into toothpaste-territory for my taste. Check the original recipe, you might prefer to follow that path. Remember, your kitchen, your cookies!

CHOCOLATE-PEPPERMINT COOKIES
(slightly modified from purewow.com)

for the filling:
1 bag of Moroccan mint tea
½ cup (115g) heavy cream
200g finely chopped white chocolate
Pinch of fine sea salt
pink gel food coloring

for the cookies:
10 tablespoons (142g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
135g granulated sugar
53g brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
240g all-purpose flour
45g black cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
pink sanding sugar to decorate

Place the tea bag and heavy cream in a small saucepan. Heat until simmering, close the pan and let it infuse for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bag, squeezing it hard. Re-heat the cream and when it is almost boiling, add to a bowl with the white chocolate, together with a pinch of salt. Let sit for a minute, then stir gently until fully dissolved. Add a tiny drop of pink gel food coloring (optional). Transfer to the fridge for several hours. When ready to use, whip it with a handheld blender but do not over-whip or the ganache might seize up.

Make the cookie dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and egg yolk; mix well to combine. Thoroughly scrape down the side of the bowl, then add the vanilla and peppermint extracts and mix to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt; add to the mixer and mix until just incorporated. Scrape down the side of the bowl, then mix again briefly on low speed to make sure everything is combined. Divide the dough in half and form each half into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (and up to overnight).

Heat the oven to 325 F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one portion of dough to ⅛ inch thick. Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut the dough and then transfer each round to one of the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the second disk of dough. Use a mini cookie cutter to cut a shape from the center of each cookie on the second tray; remove the cutouts. Bake until the cookies are set at the edges, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the trays between racks halfway through baking. Cool completely.

Assemble the cookies: Flip the cookies without cutouts over, then pipe the filling into the center of each cookie, leaving a ¼-inch border. Place one of the cookies with a cutout on top and press down slightly until the filling reaches the edge of the cookies. Sprinkle sanding sugar on the opening. Let set for 30 minutes before serving. They keep well at room temperature for several days.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I used a small heart-shape cutter for the opening. You can use a simple round or another shape of your choice. I recommend using black cocoa if you really want to take those into the Oreo world. And the peppermint flavor was a nice twist. I visualize those with a Christmas aura, making the center as a round, or a star-shape and using red, white, and green non-pareils to decorate the center.

The cookie itself is very flavorful and I baked some in small little rounds, then decorated the top with dots of Royal icing I had leftover from another cookie adventure. That is of course totally optional, but oh so very cute, right?

If you like Oreos, I hope you give this version a try.

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CLAY POT PORK AND TOMATILLO BRAISE

No worries if you don’t own a clay pot, just use any other suitable pot and go for it. I used several sources to inspire me for this recipe, and we were blown away by the outcome, The thing I love the most is being able to use a cut of pork that can be a bit tricky: boneless country style ribs. This type of recipe usually calls for pork shoulder, cut in pieces. I hate dealing with it, I end up wasting a lot of meat because… I literally butcher it. In the bad sense of the word. Boneless ribs come in a neat package, I cut each in two or three pieces and that’s all. The clay pot prevents it from getting dry and stringy. Win-win situation. Try it and you won’t be disappointed.

CLAY POT PORK AND TOMATILLO BRAISE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
3-4 lb. boneless country pork ribs, cut in pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic (optional, I omit)
1 can crushed tomatoes, fired roasted if possible (28 oz)
10 tomatillos, peeled, washed and quartered
1 Serrano pepper, chopped (seeded if you prefer less heat)
1 tsp chipotle pepper (ground)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
water as needed
fresh cilantro to serve

Soak the clay pot in cold water.

Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a pan until very hot. Pat the pork dry, season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook the pork until browned on both sides. Transfer to a bowl as you continue browning all pieces. Add a little more oil to the pan, sauté the shallots and garlic (if u sing). Add the ground spices and let them sauté for 30 seconds or so, stirring constantly.

Add the tomatillos and Serrano pepper, sautee for a couple of minutes, then add the can of tomatoes, bay leaves, apple cider vinegar, and salt. Stir everything and add the pork. If needed, add water to almost cover the meat.

Transfer everything to the soaked clay pot, place in a cold oven and turn it to 375F. Cook for 2 hours and 15 minutes if your oven heats slowly (like mine does) or 2 hours in a fast-heating oven.

Serve with fresh cilantro.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The picture above shows how much liquid I add to start the braise. I probably needed to add slightly less than 1 cup of water. The meat turns very tender and with perfect texture for our taste. Such an easy cut of meat to work with!

Although not very traditional, hubby loves to have this pork in a Brazilian-ized way: with black beans…

You can of course use the toppings traditionally paired with chili: guacamole, crumbled Mexican cheese, a little sour cream. Whatever path you choose, I am sure this will be a favorite.

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DOUBLE PEANUT SOURDOUGH LOAF

Of all the nuts out there, the peanut is the ugly duckling. Simple, humble, affordable, available everywhere. It does not have that majestic feel of a macadamia, or the sexy aura of a hazelnut. Most sourdough breads include walnuts or pecans, leaving them once again neglected. Not in my kitchen, though. This bread gets a double load of peanuts. Peanut butter, and roasted peanuts joined together with flour, salt and a wild bunch of yeast and bacteria aka sourdough starter.

DOUBLE PEANUT SOURDOUGH LOAF
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

370g water
70g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration
470g bread flour
20g spelt flour
10 g rye flour
30g peanut butter (smooth)
30g roasted peanuts, unsalted
10g salt

  • Place the water in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and dissolve the starter in it, mixing with a spatula briefly, then add the three types of flour, the peanut butter and the salt.
  • Turn the mixer on with the hook attachment and knead the dough for 2 minutes at low-speed all the time. If the dough is too sticky, add 1/4 cup flour, you want the dough to start clearing the sides of the bowl, but still be sticky at the bottom.
  • Add the peanuts and continue kneading in low-speed for 2 and a half minutes more.
  • Remove the dough from the machine, and transfer to a container lightly coated with oil, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 4 hours, folding every 45 minutes or so.
  • After four hours bulk fermentation, shape the dough as a ball, and place, seam side up, in a lightly floured banetton. Leave at room temperature one hour, and then place in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.
  • Next morning, heat the oven to 450F. Invert the dough over parchment paper, rub gently white flour on the surface. Score with any pattern you like.
  • Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam. Cool completely over a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you follow my blog, you know that my default method for sourdough involves the Kitchen Aid initial kneading and never heating the Dutch oven before dropping the bread inside, over parchment paper. Those two details make life a lot easier in terms of clean up of bowls, hands, and lack of burning marks in forearms and fingers…

I add the peanuts after 2 minutes kneading with the KA, and run the machine for one additional couple of minutes or so. That is enough to incorporate the nuts in the dough, which will continue to happen during the subsequent foldings. You can slash the dough in patterns or just do a simple slash. Below I show you another type of pattern, a kind of geometric flower.

We loved the subtle peanut flavor of this bread, and biting into a little peanut here and there was also very nice. The peanuts will end up softer than other nuts normally used in breads.

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BRAISED LAMB SHANKS IN CLAY POT

They can be made in a regular pan in the oven, but the clay pot does a beautiful job in this type of braising, so if you own one, put it to use. I like to prepare it the day before we want to enjoy it, because lamb is very fatty. Storing it in the fridge overnight allows me to remove the fat that congeals on the surface. For us, it makes the meal a lot lighter and easier to digest, but you can omit that step if you prefer.

BRAISED LAMB SHANKS IN CLAY POT
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

2 lamb shanks
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tsp oregano
2 shallots, thickly chopped
2 celery stalks, thickly chopped
1 can whole tomatoes with their liquid (28 oz)
3 large carrots, cut into large chunks
1/2c red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Soak clay pot in cold water according to the recommendations for your brand.

Rinse and pat dry lamb shanks, season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan and brown the lamb shanks on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to the clay pot.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, brown the shallots and celery until fragrant. Add tomatoes, oregano, tomato paste and wine, cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every once in a while. Add cinnamon and balsamic vinegar, a little salt and pepper. Pour sauce over lamb shanks, add bay leaves. Arrange the carrots around the meat. If the liquid does not reach all the way up to the meat, add some water.

Place in a cold oven, turn to 375F and cook for 2 and a half to three hours. If after 2.5 hours the meat is not falling apart, and there is not enough liquid, add a little water, close the pot again and roast for another 30 minutes.

If serving next day, remove clay pot from the oven, cool it, and refrigerate overnight. Remove the congealed fat and warm the meat and sauce together.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was our first dinner of 2022, and let me tell you, it exorcized awful demons from a previous celebratory meal. I am talking Christmas Eve, in which yours truly cooked the worst duck ever made in the history of mankind. I am not proud. Everything went wrong and our dinner ended up as quinoa and roasted vegetables. Which is ok, but I was really hoping for a nice roast duck to go with it. Anyway, I digress. These lamb shanks would make angels sing, unless they are Vegan Angels.

Juicy, flavorful, tender. We enjoyed them with mashed sweet potatoes. My main advice is to load the clay pot with as many carrots as you can fit in there. They turn into carrot candy…

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CHOCOLATE CHERRY MIROIR CAKE: A VEGAN SHOWSTOPPER

Please, do not allow the vegan word to scare you away. This was one of the tastiest cakes I’ve ever made, and I simply cannot BELIEVE it is vegan. The recipe comes from Fran Costigan’s cookbook: Vegan Chocolate, Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-free Chocolate Desserts. Ms. Costigan has decades of experience creating dairy-free cakes and concoctions that do not rely on margarine and tofu like most do. As she points out in the introduction of the book, you can always taste margarine in the icing, and tofu will never fail to make a cake heavy. This cake – included in her “Showstoppers” chapter – is a bit involved to make, but one of the things I love about her cookbook is that she lays out a timetable suggesting how you can break the process in stages in a smooth and efficient way. I made the cake, the vanilla custard cream, and the chocolate decorations two days before. Made the mousse, assembled the cake and covered with the glaze the day before showtime. Basically, the cake was ready and waiting in the fridge before we had to take it to a get-together with friends. All that was left to do was add the chocolate decorations. Piece of (vegan) cake!


CHERRY CHOCOLATE MIROIR CAKE
(from Fran Costigan’s Vegan Chocolate)

RECIPE OVERVIEW

1 recipe for Chocolate Torte to Live For (click here), baked in a 9-inch round pan and cooled
(can be made a couple of days in advance)

Other components

Soaked dry cherries

Vanilla Custard Cream: based on cashew cream and coconut milk, thickened with agar-agar

Magic Chocolate Mousse: water-ganache with a touch of olive oil, very interesting and quite tasty version

Mirror glaze: Cherry juice, coconut milk, cocoa, chocolate, agar-agar

Comments: Vegan baking is not simple. Fran’s book takes that challenge and turns it into art. I don’t think it is right to publish the full recipe for such a complex cake, when so much work and effort went into its design and optimization. But the cake component, which by the way, stands beautifully on its own, can be made according to the recipe she published in her website (click here). In that version, the cake is covered with a vegan ganache and ends up very elegant in its simplicity. It remains as one of her most popular cakes, and having made it, I can understand why.

For the decorations, I tempered chocolate and used some of it to pipe designs on acetate sheet. The remaining I spread over transfer sheets (I get mine usually at bakedeco.com) and before it was fully set I cut small triangles. Fran’s version in the cookbook used fresh cherries covered in tempered chocolate, but they are not in season at the present time, so I went with my Plan B.

Everything works perfectly well in this cake, I would not change a thing. The cake is intensely chocolate-y, the two mousse components soften the overall taste. I really like the texture of glazes made with agar-agar instead of gelatin, find it a lot easier to work with and more reproducible. Gelatin-based glazes tend to get a bit slimy, particularly if sitting at room temperature for a while.

To get Fran’s cookbook – a must-have if you are into baking adventures – follow this link to amazon.

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